The National Council for Special Education (NCSE), an independent agency of my Department, is responsible for planning, coordinating and advising on education provision for children with special educational needs.
The NCSE ensures that schools in an area can, between them, cater for all children who have been identified as needing special class placements.
The NCSE and my Department are actively engaging with education service providers in order to encourage them to address the shortage of places.
A Working Group, chaired by the NCSE, has been established to put in place a new working protocol to ensure that there is effective pro-active planning and timely delivery of specialist educational places for students.
Since 2011, the NCSE has increased the number of special classes from 548 in 2011 to 1,459 across the country now, of which 1,196 are Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) special classes.
The NCSE has informed my Department that they intend to establish over 175 new special classes of which approx. 165 are new ASD special classes nationally for 2019/20 school year to meet currently identified need, including new classes in Co. Kildare.
When the NCSE sanction a special class in a school, the school can apply to the Department for capital funding to reconfigure existing spaces or to construct additional accommodation. Similarly, special schools can apply to the Department for capital funding to accommodate additional placements.
Parents/Guardians who may need advice or are experiencing difficulties in locating a school placement should contact their local Special Educational Needs Organiser (SENO) who can assist in identifying an appropriate educational placement for their child, using the contact details available at http://ncse.ie/seno-contact-list.
The NCSE works in collaboration with the Educational Welfare Services (EWS) of the Child and Family Agency which is the statutory agency that can assist parents who are experiencing difficulty in securing a school place for their child or can offer assistance where a child is out of school. The local service is delivered through the national network of Educational Welfare Officers (EWO). Contact details are available at http://www.tusla.ie/get-in-touch/education-and-welfare/.